When I open my eyes,
am I praying?
When I focus my words,
am I seeing?
When I listen within,
am I opening?
What do I have
In the twinkling of an eye, my habit of lunchtime blogging has vanished, replaced by scurrying to dress giant Barbie dolls on photo sets exiled far, far away from the reach of wi-fi. I’m afraid this picture isn’t much of a reward for your visit, since the re-workings at work have drained my tank so thoroughly, there’s no gas left to spark my creativity and photography on the weekends.
This ball of thread is just as I found it, imperfect rewindings overlapping the pristine criss-crosses formed the day it was made, telling the story of a project begun and unfinished, perhaps. Its core remains unexposed. A spool like this is full of contradictions – you only find the emptiness at the center core by using it up completely, reconstituting the perfection of machines into the imperfectable and priceless work of hands.
And if that isn’t a metaphor for the life I live – popping dozens of tops and pants and boxer shorts onto mannequins, luring innocent human beings into imagining themselves somehow improved by wearing the output of factories wherein our brothers and sisters toil – then I don’t understand what a metaphor is.
The day starts out hopeful, but it doesn’t take long. Pretty soon, the camera system breaks, and no one knows why. Once we can make images, the software exports them to a black hole of its own choosing. We have to launch a search and rescue mission for what little work we’ve done. Cheerfully, an assistant wheels over a third cart full of work for me to complete today, even though I already have 2 carts, labelled “1 of 2,” and “2 of 2.” I ask out loud, “Why would I wonder if there was a third cart?” and bless this thoughtful person who has saved me from a very bad mistake. It takes a lot of effort to squeeze a completed capture out of the infrastructure.
This picture was a pretty lazy gesture. It’s only ribbon violets, balanced on a hanger draped with lace, all from my grandmother’s belongings. I didn’t try very hard, and I don’t really know if any magic happened. That’s for you to decide. All the struggle came in the days when I wasn’t making anything. That’s really work. Remembering those days makes me want to sit down and have a cup of coffee. The rest of what I do is just how I keep myself from remembering.
By the time I found the sunflower field, it was not only late in the day, but late in their life cycle. Stems once as stiff and tall as bamboo saplings curved earthwards, weighted by their precious cargo of seeds forming in the wake of the labor of bees and other pollinators. Shriveled petals shivered in the breeze and sun, like feathers ready to float away. The more I tried to look the sunflowers in their soft brown eyes, the more my own eye grew silent. I wanted simply to stroll along, shoulder to shoulder with these friends. letting them be as they were, absorbing the afternoon warmth. I walked the full length of the field, reaching a small grove of oaks, and turned to look behind me.
From where I stood, their lemony radiance was a total surprise. I had never imagined what I might find behind the sunflowers, facing towards their homing compass. I could see what the sunflowers saw, and together we seemed to be wanting the same thing: to let ourselves be drawn into something warm, to be filled with the mysterious power of light, and to become the Self we are already waiting to find.
I guess I am always looking backwards, or inwards, which explains why my pictures look the way they do. I like recesses, and shadows, and how the closer you look at something, the less certainty there is around the edges. So, on a day when creating something seems too painful, sometimes I trick myself by saying, “Just use the camera for 10 or 15 minutes.”
It helps to have a miniature Blue Willow tea set under those circumstances. Not everyone is so lucky.
In honor of my sister, Pamela Berkman-Saky, for her efforts to coax a novel from the month of August, these are the heaviest hitters I can currently muster for Intercession with her Muse. That’s Dante on the left, Diana on the right, and the Bard of Avon, center. This is a pretty good crew to have looking over your shoulder. I learned from Wikipedia that Dante’s contribution to the literary language called “Italian” is as pivotal as Chaucer’s was to English. Diana is not only the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birth – things any artist needs in her metaphoric quiver – but a twin. Oaks are her sacred tree. It so happens that her festival is tomorrow, August 13th.
Mull over the synchronicity here in your imaginations for a little while, and get back to me with your insights…Go, Pammy!
Its friendly, the way people in San Francisco pile plants around the sidewalk outside their homes. For one thing, it shows they trust passersby to know the difference between mine and yours. Since weather is never an obstacle, you may as well let the plants enjoy it, too. What can go wrong? Absolutely nothing.
The phantasmagoric black succulent in the picture is not the most eye-popping thing I saw in San Francisco. The Goats of Daly City, corralled near the rail yard where Bart emerges from the airport, win that award. I literally did a double-take when livestock came into view as I watched the desolate rail yard rush past my window. For a moment, I wondered if some homeless knitter was farming alpaca behind her trailer camp, but no…shorter necks, smoother skins, floppier ears…goats! If you have never gotten to know a goat, I recommend them. Curious, not needy; interested, not aloof; independent, but they have their reasons. Exactly the characteristics you want in a loyal, psychologically well adjusted friend. If you are into docile, forget it.
I do think sidewalk goats would be a poor choice, however. I wouldn’t trust them beyond the first planter.